“Understanding Jesus” Luke 2:40-52




My major in college was Intellectual History. When I tell people they usually give me a blank stare or question how Intellectual History is any different than regular history. But Intellectual history is the study of thought over time. It is looking at how major ideas or books changed the course of History. For centuries, most scholars believed that standard for intellectual thought was Aristotle. Aristotle’s treatise on logic and syllogism, Organon, was the standard of logic for centuries. In 1620, an English Philosopher, Francis Bacon, wrote the Novum Organum. This book challenged Aristotelian thought and proposed a new way. You can trace the beginnings of the Enlightenment to this book. I loved to see how ideas or books changed the course of history. The same premise is true for individuals. There are different events or ideas that have altered people’s personal history. I love hearing people’s stories and how they came to think and be where they are in life. Today, we get to see a key story in the life of Jesus which helps us understand who he is and his purpose for coming.



We must learn For Ourselves

There comes a time in everyone’s life when they must move out from their parent’s protection and shadow. They move from being a child of so and so to being their name. So I moved from being a son of Doug and Joann to being Dave. We are entering the end of the prologue in Luke’s gospel and we see an interesting change in this section. Verse 40 and verse 52 act like bookends to this section of Scripture. Listen to verse 40, “And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom and the grace of God was upon him.” And now listen to verse 52, “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.” Do you hear the change? At the beginning of this section, Luke says the child grew and became strong and it ends with Jesus grew in wisdom and stature. Something happens in this scene which Luke wants us to see that this child of Mary and Joseph will now be known as Jesus. Let’s go back and look at what is happening in this scene. Luke 2:41:

41 Every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. 42 When he was twelve years old, they went up to the Feast, according to the custom. 43 After the Feast was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it.44 Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. 45 When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him.

Now this is the only information that the Gospels give us about Jesus as a child and Luke is the only one that records it. As discussed last week, Luke points out again about the faithfulness and pious character of Mary and Joseph. Verse 41 reads, “Every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover.” Jesus grew up in a home than honored the Word of the Lord. It was not even a requirement for women to go so the fact that we see Mary also in attendance continues to show this family’s piety. Verse 42 gives us a detail that is important it says that, “when he was twelve years old.” The age of Jesus is important because age thirteen Jewish boys were responsible before God. Modern Judaism celebrates this 13th year with the party known as Bar Mitzvah (Son of the Law) which celebrates the boy’s move into adult responsibility before God. This is important because Jesus is going to move from under his parents’ identification to being identified individually before God.

This is instructive to us. Parents your children must learn who Jesus is for themselves. You can instruct them and teach them the Scripture, but one day they will be held responsible before God themselves. Children, this is very important for you to listen too. This story is helping to show you that you need to make your own personal decision with the Lord Jesus Christ. There is going to come a day when you are going to be held responsible before God and will have to make a decision for yourself if you are going to follow Jesus Christ as your Lord and your Savior. This is one of the reasons why we want you in the service. We want you to be here and listen to God’s Word because we want you to choose to follow God’s word yourself for this is exactly what Jesus Christ did in this passage.

But before we get to the purpose of the passage let’s look at how this story unfolds. Verse 43, “After the feast was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it.” Notice this is no longer the child, but the boy. We start to see the progression. “Thinking he was in their company, they traveled for a day.” As one pastor points out, Mary and Joseph are not negligent parents. They traveled in a large group and trusted their son. In their minds, there was no need for them to assure that Jesus was where he was supposed to be, because they trusted. Remember Jesus never sinned so one can imagine that Mary and Joseph did not have any discipline problems with Jesus. They just assumed that he would be among the traveling party. It was common for families to travel with relatives and acquaintances both for safety and for companionship. Children usually walked far ahead of the adults they paced the group with their shorter legs. And remember they did this every year, there was no reason for Mary and Joseph to assume that this year was any different than previous years. They began looking for him among their relatives and friends and when they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. After three days they found him.

There is debate among scholars if the three days of searching happened all in Jerusalem or that included the travel time. (So one day to travel away from Jerusalem and one day back and one day searching which would be three days). The exact number of days is not crucial to the story line for you know how what was going on in the hearts of these parents. PANIC. Shear tear. You know that feeling when you are in public place and you turn around and you do not see your young child anywhere. A couple of years ago Ellen and I took the kids to Myrtle Beach. We were in Eagles and we turned and could not see Elizabeth. It was a very long store and we could not find her for a couple of minutes. Your thoughts immediately go to the worse thing imaginable. She was kidnapped and taken out of the store and I will never see her again. For those few minutes (which seemed like hours), my heart was gripped with fear. Now imagine if that were three days.

Verse 46 says, “After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at this understanding and his answers. When is parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”

We must learn By Effort

Now before we get to the point of this passage, let us make an application from this young boy Jesus. Focus back on verse 46, “they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.” This verse helps us understand more of verse 40 and 52. Listen to 52, “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.” These verses are to show how Jesus was fully man. He had to grow and develop as a normal child would. He had to learn and grow in knowledge. It is hard for our minds to grasp how Jesus was fully God and fully man, but I believe that this passage reveals something about what Jesus emptied himself of in his incarnation. In some way, he limited his omniscience or his ability to know everything when he became a human being.

Matthew 24:36, “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”

So we see that Jesus had to learn and grow. Now this may be hard to comprehend, but listen how one pastor explains this:

But it is not easy to imagine how Christ can be God and not be omniscient. Evidently the incarnate Christ was able somehow to bracket or limit the actual exercise of his divine powers so that he had the personality of God (basically, the motives and will of God), but the powers of knowing all and the infinite strength of God he somehow restrained. They were his potentially, and thus he was God; but he surrendered their use absolutely, and so he was man.[1]

But beloved, let’s not miss the obvious within the complex: Jesus went into the temple courts and sat among teachers listening and asking questions. Jesus took initiative to learn about the things of God. He went to the teachers of the things of God. He asked questions of the things of God. He answered questions of the things of God. If Jesus Christ, the son of God, took initiative to learn about the things of God, do you not think that his people should do the same? If you are not hungry to learn about the things of God, you must ask yourself why? Is it a time issue, a priority issue or a fear issue? God is big and his ways can be hard to understand so we must seek out teachers to help us understand God’s ways. Seek out a teacher and ask questions. Utilize Sunday School. Sunday School is there for you to go deeper in the Bible and develop relationships with people that could help you go deeper in the Word. (If there is a reason that you do attend Sunday School, please let us know. Let’s meet each other half way. We can create the opportunity for you, but you have to be willing to walk through it.) Jesus sought out a teacher to learn and asked questions to learn about the things of God, you must do the same.

We must learn His Purpose

Look back at verse 48, “When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.” Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s House?” But they did not understand what he was saying to them.” Throughout this gospel, Luke uses the idea of understanding and hearing and receiving the words of Jesus to show when something is particularly important. This is important. Remember this is the only scene of Jesus’ childhood recorded in the gospels so it must have particular importance to the character of Jesus.

This scene is showing Jesus’ unique relationship to God, the Father. “Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.” “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” Jesus did not get his main identity from his earthly parents, but from his Heavenly Father. The literal translation means, “I had to be in the…of my Father.” Most translate this verse in my Father’s house. The KJV translates it, “I must be about my Father’s business?” Both are possible translations. Regardless, Jesus now knew his purpose and he would never forgot it. He came to do the will of His Father. He was about his Father’s business. Jesus was making a statement (on the eve of entering manhood and soon to be responsible before God) that he was here for a particular purpose. He was here to do the will of His Father.

The Greek word dei translated “must” is usually used to point out something very specific and important. It is a word that is used to show Jesus specific purpose in his mission from the Father. It is used elsewhere in Luke’s gospel in 9:22:

And he said, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.”

Notice in this verse Jesus’ unique identity, the SON of Man, is mentioned. When Jesus explains his purpose and his identity it always in relation to who he is as the Son of the Father. Jesus is the eternal Son for He has ever-lived as the Son and to do the will of his Father. And the will of Father is that he must suffer be killed and be raised to life. Mark 10:45, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Jesus Christ came to do His Father’s business, the business of saving a lost and broken world.

So this story is very important because at age 12 we know that Jesus understood his mission. We do not know the exact time he understood his purpose, but we know here at age 12 that Jesus was aware of his divinity and unique relationship with the Father. Jesus would live with this knowledge for the next 18 years before he began his public ministry. He would live as a Son responsible to God under the law so that he would be able to redeem those under the law. Galatians 4:4-5:

4 But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, 5 to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.

So at age 12, Jesus says, “Why were you searching for me? Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” Jesus knew his purpose, but Mary and Joseph did not understand.

The lack of understanding of who Jesus is was not a problem just for Mary and Joseph, but it was also a problem for Luke’s readers. They did not understand the purpose and work of Jesus Christ. But it is not just them, it is also us? We must know His purpose for knowing His purpose will help us know our purpose. So our last point:

We must learn Our Purpose

It is important to have purpose. We need to know why we are here. Why do we exist? We exist for the glory of Jesus Christ and to spread his fame throughout the world. Colossians 1:15-18:

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.

We exist for Jesus Christ because he is the creator and sustainer of everyone and everything. We are not our own, but belong body and soul, in life and death to God and to our Savior Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the key that unlocks who were are and how we are to live. Without Jesus, we do not and indeed cannot understand the purpose of life. Everything is centered around him so that he might have the supremacy.

Let me read again the verse from Galatians that I just mentioned, Galatians 4:4 and following:

4 But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, 5 to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.6 Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, [a] Father.” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.

Understanding Jesus’ unique relationship as God’s Son helps us see that God wants us also to be his sons and his daughters. Jesus is not only our Savior, but our elder brother who came to redeem us from under law that we might receive the full rights of sons. And because Jesus was obedient to the will of the Father, God the Father sent the Spirit of Christ into our hearts, and through the Spirit we cry, “Abba, Father.” Our purpose is to live like the True Son as we live as sons and daughters of God, his children. We must learn that our purpose is to become children of God. John 1:11-12:

11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent,[c] nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

Jesus came to give us a purpose. His purpose was to live to do the will of the Father. Listen to Matthew 12:46-50:

46 While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. 47 Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.”[g]

48 He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” 49 Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. 50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

Our purpose is to do the will of the Father. Isn’t interesting how God has made the family the center of society? The foundation of every society is the family. It is no surprise then that the foundation of the kingdom is a family; a family that has purchased through the blood of Christ.

Now let’s take a step back. If our purpose is to do the will of the Father, isn’t it important to know about the Father? We must learn. We must learn by effort. We must study the Bible. We must seek out teachers and ask questions so can do the will of the father. This is no small matter. This life and death, listen to John 6:40:

40 For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”

Beloved, we need to look to the Son and believe in him so we will be raised up by him in the last day.

Jesus said, “I must be in my Father’s house.” That imagery was literally speaking of the Temple, but the Bible uses the idea of a house also to refer to the church. 1 Peter 2:4-5:

As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him— 5 you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

The church is the Father’s spiritual house being built with living stones; believers that put their faith in the Son.

I more and more convinced that as much as Jesus Christ is the key that unlocks the purpose of life, the church is the key that unlocks how we live out that purpose. The church gives us a place to express our gifts to build up others. The church is where we live out our new relationship as children of God doing the will of the father with our brothers and sisters. The church is where we find teachers to learn about the will of the Father. The church gives us a community where we can declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Without the church, I believe it is almost impossible to live out our purpose as Christians in this world. The church makes life practical. It is easy to live in the hypothetical or ideas, but the church is real. The church is full of real people, real problems, and real sin. But it is a place where the gospel is displayed; sinners redeemed by grace living as sons and daughters in a new family. If you are not a member of a church, can I just encourage you to be like Jesus? He said I must be in my Father’s house, I pray you follow his example.

Steven Brazzell

Charlotte, NC